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New DVD: Let Me In

It occurred to me recently that I had never said anything about Let Me In, post theatrical release, so let's do that now since it's fresh out on DVD. The American vampire film won a few year-end citations here and there as a high-quality film but it didn't fare well with the public. It was featured in Cinematical's surprising and funny list of the lowest grossing wide releases of 2010 a month ago. Here's what they said about the vampire film.

Let Me In (Gross: $12.1 million. Widest release: 2,042 theaters.) Let's face it. No matter how good it was, a moody remake of a Swedish import about a non-sparkling teen vampire was never going to be a blockbuster. But we were still surprised at just how poorly this fared in theaters. For comparison's sake, 'Twilight: Eclipse' made $300 million, and even 'Vampires Suck' made $36 million. This is why we can't have nice things.

I get the sentiment and love the joke but I can't agree that it's a big loss as a "nice thing".

It's true that I objected to the remake so I wasn't automatically the most receptive audience. But I kept hearing how good it was so I finally caved and watched a couple of months ago, at first with great interest, about what they'd alter and how its new American setting would affect it. The strong reviews are not surprising. It's a well made, handsome movie. The cinematography is beautiful and moody (though it heavily borrows from the aesthetic ideas from the original, particularly in regards to depth of field), the performances are solid, etcetera.

But the movie fails to answer the question that all remakes must answer: What is the reason you are remaking this? If the movie presents no answer beyond "because it was in a funny language" the movie has failed.

The American version of Let The Right One In didn't make radical changes or bring in new exciting ideas about the characters/story. The few alterations seemed to merely underline the originals suggestion that the victimized boy (Oskar/Owen) would one day become the serial killing man (Håkan/The Father) because he loves that little monster (Eli/Abby). It's creepier when you have to do the work to connect those dots yourself. The only big alteration (place but not time) adds nothing new. And then there were minor erasures of the first film's more difficult and more ambiguous sexuality. Gone was the shock cut to Eli/Abby's genital area and gone was Oskar's gay (?)  father  -- this character never appears in the remake except by telephone where we learn that he's shacked up with someone named "Cindy". Unless that's a drag queen, he's safely heterosexual for American audiences. Audiences of the original seem to disagree on matters of Eli's gender and on Oskar's father's orientation but the very fact that they prompt argument is another testament to the first film's insinuating ambiguous grip on its audience.

Oskar & Owen

Mostly Let Me In seems content to love and ape Let The Right One In clinging to it as willfully as Oskar/Owen latches on to Eli/Abby. The love is a mark of good taste but a weak excuse for a remake. If you love something, watch it! Be inspired by it. Make your own thing instead. The film it most recalls, other than the Swedish original, is Gus Van Sant's Psycho (1998). That earlier much-reviled "recreation" is a far more interesting artistic exercize because it's so weirdly honest about it's own borrowed artistry and masturbatory xeroxing. Critics weren't at all kind but then that one wasn't in a 'funny language' to begin with.

Also New on DVD This Week
Critical darling indie Monsters, the true story Conviction (interview with Juliette Lewis), the sci-fi tinged drama Never Let Me Go (here's a piece on Andrew Garfield) and Oscar doc finalist The Tillman Story.

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Reader Comments (22)

I also love the original and was disappointed in this remake... I guess the change in setting made this film more of a political reflection of American society? It is a pretty straight-forward remake but the film does have some fine aspects of its own. I've seen much worse remakes then this... Heartbreak Kid anyone??

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerry

I liked "Let Me In." Chloe Grace Moretz was amazing in it. She's going to be a force once she's of age.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRen

You don't talk about the most significant change, though, which is best described as "the car crash scene" for lack of spoilers. That was one tremendous and innovative action scene that has no parallel in the original, and though it's not an argument in itself to remake the film, something really worthwhile in Let Me INn.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatey

I completely agree with everything you wrote. I'm a huge fan of the original that whined about the remake every step of the way, but I still say the damn thing its first week in theaters, partly because the reviews were strong. I can't remember the last time I was this off-consensus on a film, and seeing it praised as an equal (or better, in some cases) of the original was the most frustrating film-related trend of 2010 for me. It's the little details the remake adds that drove me crazy. You can take almost any scene and find minor additions that serve that obnoxious underlining. Do we need to see Owen's mom drink heavily to really understand his home life? Wasn't it clear in the original that she was oblivious and Oskar was isolated even at home without showing her shitfaced on the couch? I think Reeves made the Elias Koteas character's arc more overtly tragic, too. It's more affecting to let the audience realize for themselves the cost of Eli/Abby's actions and the implications for future Oskar/Owen than it is to spell it out for them. Giacchino's schmaltz score doesn't help. I think the original benefits by keeping its perspective more limited to the kids. Also, as you point out, all the interesting gender confusion of the original is erased in the remake.

Props for that scene in the car, though. The only good addition.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDenton

I loved the remake and I say that as someone who loved the Original enough to see it in the theater, buy the dvd even though I knew it had crappy subtitles and then re-buy the dvd with proper subtitles.

I think it's a shame the Let Me In got unfairly bashed well before it came out because I thought it was very well made.

I don't understand why people get so upset about remakes. Sure, I find the speed at which things are remade a little puzzling, but other than that I don't think it's a big deal. Plus, it's not as if America is the only country that remakes films. Remakes don't negate the existence of the original and if a person genuinely feels like a remake sullies the memory of an original then, IMO, that says a helluva lot about the person making the comment and next to nothing about the film. I think hating on a remake just because it's a remake it just as obtuse as people who claim they hate period pieces because they're all "boring."

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Katey -- i did like that car scene. :)

February 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Leah, i would agree with you up to a point. Remakes aren't necessarily wrong. But I think they do have to answer the question of why they're being remade in the first place IF the original film is widely considered to be a great one. I wish they would remake more good movies with major flaws ;)

I would have liked this one more if it had felt more American. I didn't understand keeping it wniter but setting it in Arizona? I understand Northern Arizona has winters but still...

i just kept asking "why"

The one aspect I would say was an improvement was Richard Jenkins who I found totally chilling as The Father. But in *every* other capacity I think the original is superior.

February 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I just watched "The Tillman Story" from Netflix. I thought it was amazing, my favorite doc of the year (though I've only seen seven or so, including three of the nominees- "Exit," "Inside," and "Restrepo"). At the end of the film, I had to remind myself that Pat Tillman was dead-- it had made him seem so real and alive.

Has anyone else seen it? (Doesn't look like Nathaniel has.)

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I rather liked the remake for at least not pussying out and making it PG-13 (which is probably what led to its lackluster box office in comparison to the two you mention, Nate).

Chloe Moretz is really something and what a great year for her creatively (with this and Kick-Ass, one of my faves of 2010).

What I didn't like was the glaringly obvious CGI with her attacks. I get that Reeves wanted to try and show how fast she was and do it without tons of quick edits but it really took me out of the movie, especially in the tunnel.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErik Anderson

I'm stoked that you decided to write about this. Here's what I wrote a few months ago. Basically I felt the aesthetic was too "American" for this story.


February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSilencio

Evan - i have the DVD right here but haven't watched it yet. But I have seen 3 of the 5 nominated docs which is huge for me in that category. Just not much of a documentary person.

Erik -- yeah, i didn't understand the special effects either. I miss experimental weird effects that aren't waht you expect. Why aren't more directors as creative about this as Michel Gondry (eternal sunshine) or Francis Coppola (i still love those insane Dracula effects). But i guess that's asking a lot. I thought it was dumb and derivative to make her eyes like zombie eyes when she "turned". why not just bloody eyes. that's spooky enough.

February 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Oskar's father wasn't meant to be gay, the director has addressed this. Seems to be something that was lost in translation, he said only American audiences have jumped to take conclusion. His father is simply a drunk.

But about Let Me In..I think it's on par with the swedish film. I probably wont revisit it as much, but I have no embarrassment in recommending it to people as a great adaptation of the novel. I not one of those people who freaks out about remakes though.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike F.

and about Arizona...the script was set in Colorado, not totally sure why they made the change. Probably a tax issue.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike F.

I liked "Let Me In" in the way that it wasn't a bad movie, but I pretty much wrote the same thing in my review as you did in yours, Nathaniel. There's absolutely no reason at all for this. They haven't done anything to stake a claim on the story. Good performances (Moretz and Smit-McPhee have never been better) and nice cinematography can't disguise that.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn


I've only seen a part of the original but I saw the whole remake. I agree with everything you've said but I'd also like to add this: This movie was just weird in its logic. We see the bully as this demonic child that we're supposed to hate. Then the movie shows us where his behavor comes from (not that it wasn't obvious that he had problems at home) but then we have to get rid of him (and his friends and brother) and in a spectacular fashion at that. I mean, does the movie want to be as shallow as "I want the viewers to hate this bad guy and then I'll make it up to them by totally kicking his ass" or deeper and more open-minded? It just failed to find an identity, for me.

And is the ending supposed to be a happy one? Because it seemed like that. We have a boy choosing to protect his love object at the obvious expense of maaaany lives yet we're supposed to be happy they end up together. It's all cool...

I did like the complexity of the relantionship between the vampire and her brother.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

James T - brother?

February 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Jesus Nathaniel, is that all you have to say? :p

Wasn't Jenkins (isn't that the actor's name? not sure) her brother? I didn't get it at first but when we saw the picture of her and a young boy, I heard someone saying he was her brother who obviously grew old as pposed to her and I thought it makes sense.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

James T--not a brother, at all. Let Me In actually makes it clearer if that helps.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSilencio

Oh, OK.
But how? I didn't notice it.
So, the boy in the pic was him but he was just a friend, I guess. Right?

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

James T, in the novel it is made clear the "The father" character is actually a pedophile..that is why he is so drawn to the vampire, she never ages. In the first film it seems like he doesn't know what he is doing during the first kill, this is because it literally is his first kill...he and Eli just met before the events in the novel take place. He wants her to stay away from the boy because he sees that it is true love. Now, in both films there is a different and much darker take that makes it seem as though the father figure is actually just like Owen/Oscar..someone Eli/Abby fell in love with as a boy.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike F.

Thanks Mike F.

February 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

You know, when I saw LTROI, the one thing I DIDN'T say was, hey, this creepy, moody, atmospheric drama needs a French Connection-esque car crash in it! And the attempts at conventionalizing the horror in LMI just made me howl with laughter. The vampire is bucked toothed and has acne, like The Exorcist meets a Clearisol ad. Those teeth couldn't even eat an orange, let alone savage a neck! The "Burning for You" scene? Dial M for Murder meets Halloween---and it was old when Michael Myers did it in the 70s. And who thought that a murderer in a garbage sack mask would be anything but hilarious? The pool scene was like Baby Plucky Duck goes postal. Arm go down the pool! And let's talk "symbolism". Ms. Pac Man devouring her victims? Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? Now and Laters? There's a point where something gets so heavy-handed and spot the influence-y, you can't help but laugh. It's beyond stupid. It's stupid, boring, and slow moving. How can someone take out major characters and subplots and end up with a movie LONGER than the original? Heck, even if I hadn't seen LTROI first, I would have trashed this movie.

February 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
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